Schools: Asbestos

Department for Education written question – answered at on 1 June 2022.

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Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make it his policy to increase annual capital expenditure on schools in order to fund the removal of all dangerous asbestos from school buildings within 40 years.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education)

The department expect all local authorities, governing bodies and academy trusts to have robust plans in place to manage asbestos in school buildings effectively, in line with their legal duties.

The department has followed expert advice from the Health and Safety Executive, that, if asbestos-containing materials are in good condition, well protected, and unlikely to be damaged or disturbed, it is usually safer to manage them in place. We have noted the recommendations in the Work and Pensions Committee’s report on the management of asbestos and the government will respond in due course.

The department has allocated over £13 billion since 2015 to improve the condition of school buildings, including £1.8 billion committed for the 2022/23 financial year. Asbestos is often removed as part of wider routine works or upgrades to school buildings. Where asbestos can no longer be managed safely in situ, it should be removed or encapsulated.

In addition, the new School Rebuilding Programme will rebuild or significantly refurbish buildings in the poorest condition at 500 schools over the next decade. The nomination process for the next round closed in March 2022. Evidence of severe need and safety issues was able to be submitted for consideration by the programme, including extensive asbestos that can no longer be safety managed in situ, and needs a rebuilding project to resolve.

The department has taken significant steps to support the school sector in strengthening asbestos management and meeting their legal duties, including publishing updated guidance on effective management of asbestos in autumn 2020 and launching the Asbestos Management Assurance Process in March 2018. The assurance process found no indication of systemic failures in the management of asbestos across the state-funded school estate.

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